Holi’s celebreated across the length and breadth of India, but in very distinct ways. Your place to be this Holi really depends on the kind of experience you want to have. At some places you’ll find religious temple rituals, other places groove at modern parties with DJs, bhang, and colors.
Here’s a comprehensive Holi Festival Guide incase you’re in India this year:
As a part of the Lathmar Holi celebrations, the women of Barsana village near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh beat up men from neighboring Nandgaon village with sticks. This event takes place around a week before the main day of Holi.
The Holi celebrations kick off at the Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan. In case you get to Barsana a couple of days in advance of Lathmar Holi, you can also experience Laddoo Holi. Sweets are thrown around and spiritual songs on Radha and Krishna are sung.
This is the traditional Indian Holi in all its glory. The celebrations start on Vasant Panchami, 40 days before the main Holi. Mathura is supposed to be where Lord Krishna was born, and Vrindavan was where he spent his childhood.
The week before Holi, the Sri Krishna Janmastham in Mathura organizes a renowned show. The week-long celebrations at Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan are legendary as well. All of this culminates into the throwing of colors on Dhulendi.
In Mathura there’s a Holi procession from Vishram Ghat to Holi Gate. On Holi, catch the splash of colors in Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura. See priests making bhang at Vishram Ghat.
Basanta Utsav or Spring Festival in Shantiniketan was started by renowned Bengali Poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. This happens as an annual event in his Vishva Bharati University a day before the given date for Holi.
Students dress in spring colors and put on a huge cultural program for visitors. This includes dance and music, all to Tagore’s songs. This is followed by the usual color festival.
Vasanta Utsav is a cherished part of Bengali history and culture.
On Holi eve, people light bonfires. This is ward off evil spirits in a ritual called holika dahan.
The grandest of celebration happens when Udaipur’s Mewar royal family celebrates. There is a palace procession from the royal residence to Manek Chowk at the City Palace, including bedecked horses and royal band.
This is Holi the Sikh way. In Punjab’s Anandpur Sahib, the annual Hola Mohalla festival dates way back to 1701. It was first organized by Sikh Guru Gobind Singh to celebrate Holi.
However, there is no throwing colors here, just a demonstration of physical agility. There are activities like wrestling, martial arts, sword duels, military exercises and turban tying.
Basanta Utsav is a 3 day folk festival in the Purulia district of West Bengal. It is around 5-6 hours by train from Kolkata, or private transport can be arranged.
You can sing along with the locals, and enjoy their unique folk art. There are the remarkable Chau dance, Darbari Jhumur, Natua dance, and songs of West Bengal’s wandering Baul musicians.
Holi in Mumbai’s largest slum Dharavi is not depressing. You can navigate one of Asia’s largest slums, and proceed to the Holi party that’s thrown for the community at Dharavi. It’s unique and uplifting.
It’s a safe and friendly environment, complete with colors and music. 80% of proceeds are devoted to helping the people of Dharavi.